How do you come up with an idea for a series?

Every action has a equal and opposite reaction, they say. And so it is when I have found myself in long periods of study, focusing on the rules of art, wanting to learn in a way that puts a lot more tools in my toolbox of what can be done with paint. I get in the studio and want to make big abstract paintings. I’ve learned to accept this. I’ve found freedom in knowing I can work in a more realistic manner and abstract at the same time.

There are things I feel cannot be captured in a realistic manner. Being a photographer early on in my career taught me this. You snap the photo and are so disappointed that it falls short of what you behold with your eyes. For me, with painting, it’s the same. Especially when it comes to the views of Lake Michigan, as seen from some of my favorite hikes inside Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore — hikes like Pyramid Point and Empire Bluff.

You look down at that water from way up high and the colors will knock your socks off. Blues and greens and turquoises that don’t have names on tubes of paint. But to paint it as it is — well, it doesn’t capture the magic. Maybe the magical feeling one gets when viewing these gorgeous vistas exists in a place beyond just the visual. The energy of the big Lake and those Dunes, it’s just beyond. One has to start throwing paint around and detaching from what can be seen and go to a place where things are only felt.

And so this new series is official. I’m going there. An abstract series based on Lake Michigan as it is seen from Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Ironically, I started this series not knowing it would become a series. I had bought a new cottage with my husband last spring, and I asked myself what I would want to see on the walls — and I painted it. I painted it just for me. And now it’s November and I’ve done a half dozen or so, and it’s growing wings of its own.

What do you think? Are there areas you couldn’t imagine being able to sum up realistically? And places you love so much you could never imagine summing them up without going to a place beyond the usual? I think that might be the heart of abstract art!

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